The newest craze in the world of Apple tech is CarPlay, a safety-first service that Apple intends to offer with the capability of harmonizing with iPhone technology in a visual interface on the vehicle’s dashboard. The technology is first being offered in Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Volvo, Honda, and Hyundai, with Mercedes-Benz talking of making the service available in older vehicles.
CarPlay interfaces with a device user’s iPhone after the phone has been plugged in to make multiple useful features of the phone available on the vehicle’s existing display; these are primarily navigation, music, and phone call services. In many instances CarPlay relies primarily on Siri, the automated personal assistant which Apple added as an integral part of their operating system with version iOS 5 in 2011. Siri can be used to input voice commands for any of the approved functions while the car is in motion; however, CarPlay’s interface may vary from vehicle to vehicle. Respective manufacturers have selected different ways to interact with the program; for example, Mercedes-Benz has utilized a knob and a few buttons to perform actions. Mercedes-Benz also installs CarPlay separately from its own native navigation programs whereas Volvo has chosen to integrate Apple’s safety-first-minded program into its own systems.
CarPlay may duplicate many functions that new cars are already capable of performing, but its safety-oriented, yet familiar and accessible interface sets it apart. The lock-out feature reportedly works by using the iPhone’s already present motion sensors to determine the rate of speed at which the device is moving. Over a certain speed, the software ascertains that the phone is presently in a moving vehicle. Data from the phone’s accelerometer and GPS help to validate the data from the motion sensors and a “scenery analyzer” uses the phone’s image capturing abilities to ascertain whether or not the holder of the device is in what is considered to be a “safe operating area.”
As with all fresh and desirable technology, access will be limited while the program is still new; only five manufacturers are currently making the new technology available. Thirteen others including Bavarian Motor Works (BMW), Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota have signed with Apple to utilize CarPlay in their vehicles at a later, undisclosed date.
Apple was issued a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for “Driver hand-held computing device lock-out,” a program that is able to turn distracting phone applications off after determining whether a mobile device user is sitting behind the wheel.
As always, Microsoft and Apple’s competition is never spaced off too far. Microsoft recently unveiled the plans for its own in-car system, an unnamed version of Windows that has been modified for vehicular use. The program offers several capabilities not advertised by Apple’s CarPlay, such as the ability to view the vehicle’s diagnostics. Like Apple’s CarPlay, the converted Windows system is safety-first. The only apps available while driving are specific programs that have been optimally modified to work while the car is in motion, while more complicated and attention-demanding applications are locked until the vehicle has come to a stop.
By Faye Barton